Why Am I Losing My Hair During Pregnancy?

A pregnant person pulls some of her hair away from her head.

comzeal / Getty Images

Zaineb Hassan Makhzoumi, MD is accustomed to reassuring nervous patients about skin and scalp conditions as a dermatologic surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center. But even with all her years of medical training and knowledge, she was dismayed when she started losing hair during her own pregnancy with her twin sons.

She was washing her hair in the shower when she realized just how much she was shedding. “It just kept coming and coming,” recalls Dr. Makhzoumi, who is also chief of clinical service and section head for dermatologic surgery and oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Most people who experience hair loss in conjunction with pregnancy actually lose the hair after
delivering their babies, also known as postpartum hair loss. But a smaller number lose more hair than usual during their pregnancy, as Dr. Makhzoumi did. Ahead, we'll break down why hair loss happens during pregnancy, how to cope with the change, and what can be done to prevent it from occurring.

What Causes Hair Loss During Pregnancy?

On a normal basis, you might lose between 50 and 100 hairs every day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

More dramatic and noticeable hair loss that happens after a triggering event is known as "telogen effluvium," which is how pregnancy and postpartum hair loss are categorized. In postpartum, the triggering event is childbirth and the drop in hormones, most notably estrogen.

But in this case, the triggering event for hair loss is pregnancy, with its shifting hormone levels. Pregnancy hair loss occurs less frequently than postpartum hair loss.

Maram Said, DO, an OB/GYN at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, explains that hair loss typically occurs closer to the third trimester and tends to be an overall thinning, rather than hair loss from one particular area.

Maram Said, DO.

You feel like you’re going to go bald, but you’re not. The hair will come back.

— Maram Said, DO.

But just like most postpartum hair loss, it's important to remember that pregnancy-related hair loss is temporary, too. Your body will likely recover from the shock or stress—that is, the pregnancy—that caused the hair loss to occur.

“You feel like you’re going to go bald, but you’re not,” Dr. Makhzoumi says. “The hair will come back.”

It is possible that another culprit is responsible for your pregnancy-related hair loss, so it's best to mention any symptoms to your OB/GYN or healthcare provider.

For example, iron-deficiency anemia can sometimes lead to hair thinning. Anemia is a condition that develops when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to all the corners of your body. Pregnant people are prone to developing mild iron-deficiency anemia, especially during the second and third trimester, due to an increase in blood volume that accompanies pregnancy.

Another possible cause of hair loss during pregnancy is thyroid disease. Dr. Said checks the thyroid levels of every new pregnant patient by the eight-week mark, since thyroid disease can also affect the pregnant parent's metabolism and the baby’s brain development.

How to Cope With Pregnancy-Related Hair Loss

While there are products on the market that pledge to help with hair regrowth, you should talk with your healthcare provider before using them, as they may or may not be safe for your developing baby.

If you recall commercials for products that promise to regrow hair, you might also remember a warning for pregnant people to avoid using some of these items.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns medications a safety rating on a scale from A (studies have failed to demonstrate a risk to the developing fetus) to X (evidence of human fetal risk or fetal abnormalities).

Products known for promoting hair regrowth, such as topical minoxidil, which is designed to be applied to the scalp, fall into Category C, which the FDA warns, “Animal reproduction studies have shown an adverse effect on the fetus and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks."

Dr. Said steers her pregnant patients away from this type of treatment altogether, explaining that it’s not worth taking the risk to address a temporary hair loss situation.

“We want to be safe, and there are things that we just don’t have enough data on during pregnancy,” says Dr. Said.

How to Prevent Pregnancy-Related Hair Loss

While there's little you can do to fully stop pregnancy-related hair loss from happening, there are actions you can take to help strengthen your hair.

A strategy that might help involves taking a more gentle approach to styling. This could include ditching the tight buns and ponytails, avoiding the urge to aggressively brush your hair, and carefully washing and drying your hair to avoid unnecessary tugging or pulling.

You might also avoid harsh styling tools that use heat, like straightening irons, that could put additional stress on your hair.

If you do use a hair dryer, don't put it too close to your hair, as one study suggests that a 5 cm distance can help protect your hair from possible heat damage. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of protein can't hurt, either.

If you have a medical condition that might contribute to your excessive hair shedding, be sure to stay consistent with your treatment plan. For example, if you’re anemic, your healthcare provider may suggest an iron supplement, Dr. Said points out.

A Word From Verywell

We know that excessive postpartum hair shedding typically peaks around your baby’s 4-month birthday, and your normal hair growth should return by your child’s first birthday. But we don't know as much about pre-birth hair loss. The timeline for regaining any pre-birth hair loss is not as established as postpartum hair loss, but don’t worry. That lost hair will regrow, too.

According to Dr. Said, you just have to remember that it’s a small window in the greater scheme of things. As she puts it, “This is all transient and temporary and not expected to affect you for the rest of your life."

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Do You Have Hair Loss or Hair Shedding?

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Hair Loss in New Moms

  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Hair Loss.

  4. American Society of Hematology. Anemia and Pregnancy.

  5. British Thyroid Foundation. Hair Loss and Thyroid Disorders.

  6. Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management. FDA Pregnancy Categories.

  7. Lee Y, Kim YD, Hyun HJ, Pi L quan, Jin X, Lee WS. Hair shaft damage from heat and drying time of hair dryer. Ann Dermatol. 2011;23(4):455-462. doi:10.5021/ad.2011.23.4.455

  8. American Academy of Dermatology. Hair Loss in New Moms

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Larson
Jennifer Larson is a seasoned journalist who regularly writes about hard-hitting issues like Covid-19 and the nation's ongoing mental health crisis, as well as healthy lifestyle issues like nutrition and exercise. She has more than 20 years' of professional experience and hopes to log many more.